Chennai: Promising Forward N Sivasakthi Named Captain of India U-23 Team
Stellar Domestic Season and Injury setback
After a stellar domestic season where he netted 11 goals for Bengaluru FC, promising forward N Sivasakthi was only a step away from realizing his dream of donning the India jersey. Sivasakthi was named in the provisional 23-member India senior-team contingent for the Tri-Nation Tournament in Manipur, but an injury to his face in the early minutes of the Indian Super League 2022-23 final put paid to his hopes of playing in that event.
The 22-year-old was not considered for selection for the tournaments which followed – Intercontinental Cup in Bhubaneswar and SAFF Championship in Bengaluru – as India head coach Igor Stimac felt that the youngster was not at his best post the injury.
Rewarded for his resilience
While Sivasakthi was bitterly disappointed for a brief period after the setback, he looked at the larger picture and picked himself up for the challenges ahead. The Tamil Nadu player was recently rewarded for his grind and last season’s performances – he was named the captain of the India Under-23 team for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in Dalian, China. Interestingly, Sivasakthi will wear the captain’s armband in his first national-team assignment across age-groups.
Quotes from N Sivasakthi
- “After I got injured, I was frustrated that I could not play the rest of the ISL final [against Mohun Bagan Super Giant in Goa in March]. My team ended up losing that match, so it was a double blow for me. Adding insult to injury, I had to pull out of the India senior-team camp. For some time, I did not have the right mindset. But later, I felt ‘this is not the end’. I then gained the confidence to make it to the national team [at some level],” Sivasakthi told TOI from Bhubaneswar, where the India Under-23 side is preparing for the qualifiers.
- “I was part of a few national-team camps (at different levels) in the past, but I never got into the main squads. Once, I could not even join the camp because of an injury. So, getting selected in the Under-23 final squad made me happy. I felt even better when I was told that I will lead the team. I am keen to contribute in every match I play for the country,” Sivasakthi added.
Recognition from Former India Forward Raman Vijayan
Sivasakthi has come a long way since the time he was first spotted by former India forward Raman Vijayan. Vijayan took him under his wing about eight years ago and turned him into a gem at the Raman Vijayan Soccer School. “Sivasakthi must prove himself at every stage. We have seen many players showing early promise and then disappearing from the scene. Only if he proves himself here will he get a chance to break into the senior team,” Vijayan, currently serving as Chennaiyin FC assistant coach, said.